Four recent picture books
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The Bear and the Moon by Matthew Burgess: A curious little bear spots something “red as a berry and round like the moon” with a long silver string attached to it. The balloon goes everywhere with him, providing quiet company and new excitement, seeming to smile back at him like a friend. But one day, it pops. The bear desperately tries to fix it, to no avail, and sorrow and loneliness set in. Nature has a way of providing comfort, and the bear realizes that all good things are a gift, and loss is not always a result of bad behavior. The book’s soothing tone, soft illustrations, and muted landscapes make it a good bedtime story. (Ages 3-5)
Over and Under the Rainforest by Kate Messner: A child and an adult companion traverse a Central American rainforest teeming with life. Above them, monkeys, birds, and insects make a symphony of sounds. Along the way, the child observes a host of exotic animals on the ground, down in the river, and up in the trees. Colorful illustrations and rich sensory details accompany each animal discovery, the afternoon rain and snack, and nightfall, when the jaguar comes out. Messner’s latest installment in her ecosystem exploration series lives up to previous titles. Its concluding notes give additional info about rainforests and animals featured in the book. (Ages 5-8)
The World Needs Who You Were Made To Be by Joanna Gaines: Gaines’ second picture book opens with a racially diverse group of children working to create a fleet of hot air balloons. As each child tackles his or her project, differences in personality abound. Gaines affirms the blessing of these differences and shows how together the children’s uniqueness creates a beautiful outcome. “We may not look or work or think the same, but we all have an important part to play. … You’re one of a kind, and it’s so clear to see: The world needs who you were made to be.” (Ages 4-8)
The Song for Everyone by Lucy Morris: A beautiful melody drifts down from a small upper window and flows throughout the town, searching out “the lonely and lost, the needy and sad.” The music seems to give the townspeople something they have been missing: When they listen, it transforms them from lonely to delighted and from weary to lively. But one day the music abruptly ceases, and the town begins to suffer. After the people discover the source of the music, they must work together to restore it. Morris’ soft pencil, watercolor, and crayon drawings beautifully illustrate the power of music. (Ages 4-8)
As Valentine’s Day approaches, some books will help children contemplate enduring messages about love. Max Lucado’s The Boy and the Ocean (Crossway, 2013) follows a little boy as he looks for, but does not find, the end of the ocean, mountains, and starry night sky. In each beautifully illustrated scene, his parents are beside him, taking in God’s vast creation and likening it to His love—always here, always deep and big, never ending, and special.
Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda (Aladdin, 1999) tells the story of a physician and priest in ancient Rome who cared for and prayed with patients, asking for little in return. He ultimately lost his life for his Christian faith, but not before sending a little note to a jailer’s blind daughter.
In God Loves Me More Than That by Dandi Daley Mackall (WaterBrook, 2008), an inquisitive boy tries to grasp the height, depth, and width of the love of God. The book concludes with the boy sound asleep, resting in the greatness of the Lord’s love. —M.J.
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